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Moon talks up peace on Armed Forces Day

But opposition says absence of a parade is a sop to North Korea

Oct 02,2018
Soldiers in combat gear demonstrate battle scenes of the future in a performance to celebrate the 70th Armed Forces Day on Monday at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan District, central Seoul. [YONHAP]
President Moon Jae-in said Monday he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to work for peace in their latest summit and to wipe nuclear weapons off of the peninsula during a speech celebrating Armed Forces Day in central Seoul.

The remarks, relayed to a crowd of some 3,500 soldiers, officials and civilians at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan District, reiterated both governments’ hope to formally sign a war-ending declaration by the end of this year with the United States.

Washington has resisted this idea and is pressing Pyongyang to show significant progress in denuclearization first.

Armed Forces Day is celebrated on Oct. 1 to honor the service of men and women in the South Korean military. On this day in 1950, South Korean troops broke through the 38th parallel during the war against North Korea.

“My heart overflows with joy to end the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula and talk about an era of peace today,” Moon said in his address on Monday evening.

“Chairman Kim Jong-un and I declared an end to the war between the South and North and peace on the Korean Peninsula in the Sept. 19 Pyongyang Joint Declaration,” the Blue House chief continued.

“I promised a peaceful Korean Peninsula - a Korean Peninsula that holds no nuclear weapons or nuclear threats - in front of 150,000 Pyongyang citizens,” Moon said, referring to a speech he made on Sept. 19 to a crowd of 150,000 spectators at the May Day Stadium after a mass gymnastics performance.

Moon pointed out that “peace doesn’t come at once” and that it was pertinent to believe peace would last only when South Korea’s armed forces remain strong.

Moon vowed to improve working conditions within the military by making it a “fair” organization, and provide opportunities to men during their two-year mandatory military service so they don’t lack social experiences during the period.

The president also promised to “drastically develop” medical support for military personnel, build more day care centers where soldiers can drop off their kids during duty and reduce discrimination between male and female soldiers.

On military reform, Moon called on the armed forces to infuse aspects from the fourth industrial revolution, creating a “smart national defense” and a “digitally strong military.”

Apart from Moon’s speech, celebrations for Armed Forces Day at the War Memorial of Korea on Monday evening included a Taekwondo demonstration and a performance by rapper Psy, who rocked global music charts in 2012 with his hit, “Gangnam Style.”

A city military parade, which is usually held every five years, was not prepared, provoking a backlash from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, who accused the Blue House of dropping it on purpose in deference to North Korea.

An official at the Ministry of National Defense, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the military decided to ditch the parade this year in order to relieve soldiers of certain harsh duties.

The last time a military parade was held on Armed Forces Day was in 2013 during the former Park Geun-hye administration. The most previous liberal administration, Roh Moo-hyun, also had one in 2003.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, LEE CHUL-JAE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]


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